Friday, January 23, 2015

Novel Review: The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark

Rating (Out of 5): ~2
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends)
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Spoilers?: Some, yes--with ending.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.

Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

The Cover:

I actually really like this cover. I think it's very pretty, not too bright or showy, and the image is super cute. I don't know if I think it actually gives a great feel for the book, though the idea behind it is fitting. I think it's just too cutesy for the drama.


“Because I know what love is now. Love is an intricate filigree band. Complicated but beautiful. Love is three diamonds. For past, present, and future. Love is never giving up even through the Great Depression and two world wars.” (ARC, pg. 342)

I think I have a lot to say about this book. There were some ups… and there were also some downs.
First of all, despite what I say, this wasn’t hard to read. The writing wasn’t too bad, and it went by relatively fast, even with the slow bits. I didn’t hate reading it, even with the faults.
The title is misleading, in my opinion, because many other things could have been used to make it more fitting. Gabe is a huge player, ignores his feelings for Maddy for way too long, and insists on just being her skating partner. None of this make me think of a boy-next-door story. Gave me the wrong impression.
There was a lot of sexual stuff in this book—a surprising amount. There’s mentions of actual sex and a hand job, none of it too graphic, but it's also pretty clear that’s what’s happening. So, I don’t know. Recommended for older/more mature teens.
Which is ironic, given the pretty immature other elements. The first of which is that the school parts, and the other students’ interactions, were very young. They acted pretty close to twelve, maybe fourteen. The other students talk about stuff, and make notes to each other, like they’re in middle school, even laughing at inappropriate words. And then the teacher… She’s portrayed as weak and unable to control her classroom, and then has her students read the plays aloud, and allowing the main characters to kiss during class, because it’s in the play. This is goaded on by the other students, but the teacher makes no mention of it. When that is absolutely not something okay in schools. What the hell?
Then there’s the whole mess with Gabe. He insists on keeping his and Maddy’s relationship a secret until the very end of the book, for absolutely no plausible reason. He talks like he’s going to change that several times, but never actually does anything.
This whole plot reminded me of something I did in early high school (younger than these characters), in a very bad way. It’s just immature and dumb, and I don’t understand why Maddy let it happen. It was dumb of her. And then she has sex with Gabe before he admits to anything, and that didn’t make any sense to me, or seem plausible. I don’t understand why she thought it was a good idea, or why he gave in when he kept insisting not to. That whole thing just didn’t work for me.
And then there were plots that never really went anywhere… There was drama with their friends, Chris and Kate, which I guess stood as an example for Maddy and Gabe of what they didn’t want, but their actual drama and situation never got resolved.
There was a large plot with Gabe relying on Maddy being his partner, that he wasn’t nearly as good as her and if she went on her own, he wouldn’t have anything, since he gave up hockey. That could have been a plot where he grew into his own person, but it never went anywhere. There’s even dual points-of-view, which makes this even more of a disappointment.
Not a lot was explained, also. Pretty much all of the ice skating talk is thrown at you from the beginning, with little-to-no explanation for what any of it means. Given that I know nothing about ice skating, this was hard for me to follow. Especially when it threw in puns in the middle of their talking and thoughts. No explanation for how that worked. Also, Gabe and Maddy have some secret language through flashlights? They blink them at each other through their windows, I guess, and have a cheat sheet that they made when they were little. But we are given no idea how it works, or how they chose what each letter or word means, we are just told what they’re saying. This left me frustrated.
Finally, the ending. There’s a trope near the end of Maddy getting hurt, and that’s why Gabe finally fesses up to his feelings. Then there was the whole drama with Maddy's parents, and how they kept it a secret from her for no real reason. But even throwing that aside, there’s this whole marriage thing. Gabe throws a mock wedding for him and Maddy, and she finds this super sweet. Even though, um, they’re like seventeen? And in high school? And not even actually going out? And then he kind of proposes to her at the end, and this annoys me beyond belief. Jumping that far ahead is ridiculous and not okay, and what kind of example is that?
I don’t even know anymore… I didn’t hate Maddy, even if I didn’t relate to her or like her all that much. Gabe was a bit of a jerk a few times, though sweet with Maddy at the end. There were a lot of missteps with this book, but I didn’t hate it. I definitely thought it would be better, though.

A review copy was provided by the publisher, Swoon Reads. Thank you!

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